I’m still finding it hard to believe that Cathay Pacific has agreed to honor those S$1.6K First Class fares out of Vietnam. Some part of me still thinks it’s a prank, or that the airline’s social media channels got hacked, or that my life as I know it is actually a big computer simulation and someone just installed XP.
And yet here we are. The fares are real. The flights are happening. Now, we move into the next stage of mistake fares– the planning.
I’m sure many of us bought these tickets on a whim, and may not have given serious thought to the logistics behind what we’re about to embark on. So here’s my take on some questions you might have- I booked myself from HAN-HKG-SFO, so I’m going to use that as my example.
Can I start my journey in Hong Kong?
Nope. These fares are strictly for travel out of Vietnam. If you think you’re being clever by skipping the first leg and showing up directly at the Hong Kong airport, you’re going to have a rude shock awaiting you. Once you miss a leg, the rest of your journey is cancelled.
Just accept the fact you have to start in Vietnam- those are the rules of your windfall.
Can I end my journey in Hong Kong?
Now this is a slightly more interesting question. Technically, yes- if you have no check-in luggage.
What happens when you check in at SFO is that your bags will be tagged all the way through to HAN. You can try asking them to short check your bags to HKG, but barring some sort of miracle they’re not going to let you. It’s a standard airline policy not to short check bags, precisely because they don’t want people to engage in throwaway ticketing.
If you have no check-in luggage then there’s nothing stopping you from skipping your HKG-HAN flight at the end of your journey and just getting onboard your HKG-SIN flight.
How long a connection should I plan for in Vietnam?
This is a crucial question, and the answer depends on several factors:
- Do you have check-in luggage?
- If you do, does the airline you’re flying to HAN have an interline agreement with Cathay Dragon?
- If it doesn’t, which Vietnam airport are you flying into?
With regards to (1)- If you don’t have check-in luggage, then your connection is as simple as following the signs for transit and entering the departure area for your onward Cathay Dragon flight. Be sure to print out your boarding passes before your leave Singapore.
With regards to (2)– If you do have check-in luggage and your airline has an interline agreement with Cathay Dragon/Pacific, then you can check your bag straight through to SFO when you get to the airport in SIN. You then follow the signs for transit in Vietnam, as if you had no check-in bags. Ditto on printing the boarding passes.
How do you know which airlines have interline agreements with Cathay Dragon/Pacific? You can fire up the trusty KVS Tool (which we cover during Power Award Searching), and look under the Reference section…
…or if you’re too cheap to buy KVS Tool you can use the table I put together below. I’m guessing you want a direct flight from SIN to SGN/DAD/HAN so I’ve only included airlines for which that’s a possibility:
|Interline to CX/KA?||SGN||DAD||HAN|
|Singapore Airlines/Silk Air||Yes||Yes||Yes|
With regards to (3)– this becomes more of an issue where there’s no interline agreement and you need to claim your bags in Vietnam and recheck them to Cathay Dragon/Pacific. The minimum connecting times (MCTs) for international to international flights are all the same regardless of which Vietnam airport you picked:
- HAN: 60 mins
- DAD: 60 mins
- SGN: 60 mins
But keep in mind these MCTs assume you’ve checked your bags through. If not, you need to budget time for both inbound and outbound immigration (great time to have an APEC Travel card…), you need to budget time for luggage collection, you need to budget time for check-in and you need to budget time for walking. You may even need to factor in the possibility of landing at a remote gate.
Moreover, you’re going to want to factor in the layout and relative traffic of each airport. SGN is by far the busiest of the three, followed by HAN, then DAD. More passengers means longer queues at immigration, more bags to unload, more people to shove past…
My advice? Give yourself at least 2 hours to make your connection. Trust me, you don’t want to gamble with this. I tried a 1h 45 min connection before with the Philly Pho Fare (also out of Hanoi) which almost ended in disaster, and I want to save you all the panic and anxiety I went through as my flight into HAN landed late.
Can I change my dates?
No, you can’t.
Or rather, you can, but you’re going to have to pay a $100 change fee, plus the fare difference. The former isn’t the problem; the latter is. Remember, you bought, for all intents and purposes, a deep discount First Class fare. Want to change your dates? Sure- pay the fare difference between your current fare and the regular First Class price. Yeah, I thought not. For more information, have a read of Dom’s analysis over at HK Travel Blog.
This, by the way, is why it’s crucial that you plan your connection in Vietnam properly. If your underbudget it and miss your Cathay flight, there’s a US$300 no-show fee, plus the difference in fares to rebook yourself. In other words, miss your connection in Vietnam and there goes your mistake fare.
Which frequent flyer program should I credit my miles to?
Your Cathay First Class fares code under the A bucket, although remember that your Business Class leg from Vietnam to Hong Kong should code under J. Here’s some ideas where to put them…
|FFP||Accrual Rate||Approx Total Miles (HAN-HKG-SFO)|
|Asia Miles||N/A- Asia Miles now offers fixed miles by distance flown||25,040|
Alaska Mileage Plan
|350%||48,490 (HAN-HKG is on KA, which won’t earn Alaska Miles)|
|British Airways Avios||150%- A|
|Japan Airlines Mileage Bank||150%|
To me, it’s a no-brainer to put these into Alaska Mileage Plan and net yourself almost 50,000 miles in the process. That’s slightly under two round trips to Japan on JAL, or even a one-way Business Class ticket on Cathay to the US, assuming you can find space.
What are the must-dos at the CX First lounges in HKG?
Cathay Pacific operates two different First Class lounges in HKG. They’re not close to each other, so don’t waste time trying to see both on the same visit- plan one for your outbound leg, one for your inbound leg.
Louis visited The Pier recently, and it seems the highlights would be:
- Getting a 10 minute massage at The Retreat
- Tucking into a made-to-order meal in The Dining Room
- Taking a nap in one of the day suites, complete with tarmac view
The Wing has many similar features to The Pier eg on-demand dining, business facilities, a library, but also has its own party tricks including:
- Taking a long bath in a private cabana
- Putting away three types of champagne at The Champagne Lounge
If this is your first ever mistake fare, congratulations! It’s especially thrilling the first time, even if you’ve flown First/Business Class on miles before. Please be very careful with your mistake fare- it’s a fragile creature, and missing a leg, or not being able to make a particular date could see it go up in flames.
So there you have it- I hope this post has helped answer some of your questions, but if not feel free to post them below!
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